Making a mark in a sport and being seen as pioneers in that effort gives a high. Both Aditya Mehta and Pankaj Advani are demonstrating that they have the game to go with their perseverance to make it count in the tough world of professional snooker.
At the Indian Open on Thur-sday, multiple billiards world champion Advani overcame difficult scheduling, which forced him to play the previous night and again in the morning, to match his best record in pro snooker — reaching the last eight as he did at the Welsh Open in February.
The prize for that exertion, however, was the quarterfinal clash against compatriot Aditya Mehta on Thursday night. While the home fans rejoiced at the prospect of watching an Indian in the semifinal of a world ranking event for the first time, it had to be bittersweet for the loser.
All his focus was on his progress, but in the end an Indian’s success had to be celebrated. One could sense the strain as Mehta said before the match, “Anyway, it will be great for India.” The tension showed as the two were engaged in a tortuous quarterfinal devoted to defensive play, waiting for the other’s mistakes. The result was the absence of any scoring rhythm. Advani and Mehta were tied 2-2 (70-29, 0-70, 82-68 43-58).
China’s Ding Junhui, the world No 4, upstaged Aussie world No 1 Neil Robertson in a contest of pure class, prevailing 4-2 after the latter had fought back to level at 2-2. He faces England’s Robbie Williams, who routed Scotland’s Anthony McGill 4-0.
Scotland’s Stephen Maguire, who beat Welshman Michael White, will meet the Indian winner in the other semifinal.
In the third round, Mehta won a test of temperament against Welshman Mark Williams 4-2, holding his own, especially in the sixth frame, against the two-time world champion.
Advani almost got beaten ‘black and blue’. Leading 3-1, he missed a blue in the fifth frame and an easy black in the next, letting world No 12 Stuart Bingham to win both frames and force the decider. There, Bingham missed an easy chance and Advani handled the pressure well to notch a match-winning clearance of 86. “I’m so happy I belong there,” said Advani.
In the cat-and-mouse fifth frame against Williams, Mehta explained he knew Williams, being a left-hander, was at a disadvantage due to the angle in which the balls were positioned. Little escapes attention.